New course to track election in real time

Sam Humphrey

For political junkies and aspiring politicos, tracking America’s politics and catching up on the latest news from the campaign trail can be far more appealing than sitting down and hitting the books. But this fall, students in CJN-491, “The 2016 Presidential Election in Real Time,” have the opportunity to do just that.

The course, which will be co-taught by professors Robert Rosenthal and Rachael Cobb, allows students to follow the political race as it unfolds in the fall.

“It’s very exciting because we’ll be studying the presidential campaign as it happens,” said Rosenthal of the course material. “We’ll be looking at the campaign events, the debates, the advertising in the campaign, the candidates’ speeches. And we’re also going to focus on campaign strategy, looking at the demographics like expected voter turnout, who’s voting, where they’re voting, et cetera.”

Rosenthal and Cobb do not know exactly how the course will progress, since it revolves around the campaign.

“Rachael and I have planned the broad structure of the class, but don’t know exactly how a lot of it will go. Part of the challenge of teaching a course like this is the campaign is changing constantly — we don’t know what is going to happen,” Rosenthal said. “But there is going to be a lot of interaction with the students. It will be very involved, with watching debates, watching the political advertising.”

Rosenthal said they also plan to bring in guest speakers to give students a variety of perspectives on the race including local politicians, local journalists covering the election, and Director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center David Paleologos.

Additionally, Cobb and Rosenthal bring different talents to the class and will both teach about the race from their respective backgrounds, Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal, who chairs the university’s Communications and Journalism department, will focus on the communication and advertising campaigns used by the candidates and the media coverage of the campaign. Cobb, chair of the government department and whose background is in political science, will focus on the demographics of voters and voting blocs.

Additionally, each will dig into the major political issues of the campaign and what matters to voters.

“It’ll be fun to team-teach the course. We have similar perspectives in some ways, as we’re both into politics, but we’ll bring in different perspectives to the class, too. It should be a very fun experience for the faculty as well as the students,” said Rosenthal.

While many young people across the country are following the presidential race, students who track it for homework will learn a lot about American politics.

“Clearly, they’ll have a very in-depth understanding of the campaign itself and why it went the way it did. And they’ll gain a greater understanding of politics in general, as well as the political communication that goes into campaigns,” said Rosenthal. “From [the] political science side, they’ll be looking at voters, voter demographics … and they’ll learn a lot about politics and media coverage.”

Rosenthal said he is excited to teach the course and see where both it and the election go in the fall.
   “We are very excited about working together as well as giving the students a really unique understanding of the election, and I think students are really going to enjoy this experience,” he said.